ED 471 785
CS 511 592
Barsema^ Michelle; Harms, Louann; Pogue, Carol
Improving Reading Achievement through the Use of Multiple
Reading Strategies .
83p.; Master of Arts Research Project, Saint Xavier
University and SkyLight Professional Development Field-Based
Dissertations/Theses (040) — Reports - Research (143)
EDRS Price MF01/PC04 Plus Postage.
Action Research; Family School Relationship; ^Instructional
Effectiveness; Primary Education; Reading Achievement ;
* Reading Improvement; * Reading Instruction; * Reading
Strategies; Sustained Silent Reading
Accelerated Reader Program
This report describes a program for increasing primary
students’ reading achievement as indicated by scores on reading series theme
tests, state standards achievement test scores, achievement test scores,
report card grades, and students’ involvement in reading. The targeted
population consisted of primary elementary school students in a Midwestern,
rural, middle class community. The problems of reading achievement were
documented through data revealed on pretests administered to the targeted
students. Analysis of probable cause data revealed that students exhibited a
lack of achievement related to insufficient reading practice, poor fluency,
choosing inappropriate reading materials, lack of motivation, disengagement
with text, and poor role modeling. A review of solution strategies suggested
by knowledgeable others, combined with an analysis of the problem setting,
resulted in the selection of four major categories of intervention: an
implementation of the Accelerated Reader program, increased sustained silent
reading time, development of a buddy reading system, and establishment of a
home-to-school reading program. Post-intervention data indicated an increase
in the primary students’ reading achievement as shown by a meaningful
improvement of the Woodcock Reading Test scores, the state standards
achievement test scores, the STAR reading test scores, and the pilot Snapshot
of Early Literacy test. Appendixes contain a student reading log, a ”Be a
Star Reader” form, and a Reading Star chart. (Contains 68 references, and 7
tables and 3 figures of data.) (Author/RS)
IMPROVING READING ACHIEVEMENT THROUGH
THE USE OF MULTIPLE READING STRATEGIES
An Action Research Project Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the
School of Education in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts in Teaching and Leadership
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Saint Xavier University & SkyLight
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
Office of Educational Research and improvement
EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES INFORMATION
□ This documertt has been reproduced as
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• Points of view or opinions stated in this
document do not necessarily represent
official OERI position or policy.
Field-Based Master’s Program
This report describes a program for increasing primary student’s reading achievement as
indicated by scores on reading series theme tests, state standards achievement test scores,
achievement test scores, report card grades, and students’ involvement in reading. The
targeted population consisted of primary elementary school students in a Midwestern,
rural, middle class community. The problems of reading achievement were documented
through data revealed on pretests administered to the targeted students.
Analysis of probable cause data revealed that students exhibited a lack of achievement
related to insufficient reading practice, poor fluency, choosing inappropriate reading
materials, lack of motivation, disengagement with text, and poor role modeling.
A review of solution strategies suggested by knowledgeable others, combined with an
analysis of the problem setting, resulted in the selection of four major categories of
intervention: an implementation of the Accelerated Reader program, increased sustained
silent reading time, development of a buddy reading system, and establishment of a
home-to-school reading program.
Postintervention data indicated an increase in the primary students’ reading achievement
as shown by a meaningful improvement of the Woodcock Reading Test scores, the state
standards achievement test scores, the STAR reading test scores, and the pilot Snapshot
of Early Literacy test.
This project was approved by
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER 1 - PROBLEM STATEMENT AND CONTEXT 1
General Statement of the Problem 1
Immediate Problem Context 1
The Surrounding Community 9
National Context of the Problem 14
CHAPTER 2 - PROBLEM DOCUMENTATION 18
Problem Evidence 18
Probable Causes 25
CHAPTER 3 - THE SOLUTION STRATEGY 28
Literature Review 28
Project Objectives and Processes 46
Project Action Plan 47
Methods of Assessment 50
CHAPTER 4 -PROJECT RESULTS 52
Historical Description of the Intervention 52
Presentation and Analysis of Results 57
Conclusions and Recommendations 65
PROBLEM STATEMENT AND CONTEXT
General Statement of the Problem
Many of the students of the targeted kindergarten and third grade classes
exhibited below grade level reading achievement. Evidence for the existence of the
problem included reading series theme tests, state standards achievement test scores,
achievement test scores, report card reading grades, and teacher observations. This
problem was also evidenced by an observed lack of participation in the Accelerated
Reader program offered in individual classrooms.
Immediate Problem Context
The specific school in which the research was conducted had a student enrollment
of 442 students from prekindergarten through fourth grade. The ethnic background of the
students included 93.5% White non-Hispanic, 0.6% Black non-Hispanic, 5.6% Hispanic,
and 0.2% Asian-Pacific Islander. Low-income students accounted for 23.4% of the total
enrollment. The students in the school who were limited-English proficient made up
1.1% of the school population (School Report Card, 2000). The attendance rate for the
school was 96.1%. The student mobility rate was 23.3%. Chronic truancy was not a
problem at this school (School Report Card, 2000).
Kindergarten classes had an average size of 20.3 students. Third grade classes had
an average size of 22.5 students. At this school 98.5% of students’ parents or guardians
had personal contact with the school staff during the school year. Personal contact
included parent-teacher conferences, parental visits to school, school visits to home,
telephone conversations, and written correspondence.
Faculty and Staff
The school had a faculty consisting of 27 full-time and 6 half-time certified
teachers. Of these, three and one half were special education teachers. There was one
teacher each for art, music, physical education, and learning center. The music teacher
was shared with the elementary school in Community C. The physical education teacher
was shared with the elementary school in Community B. The art teacher was shared with
the elementary schools in all three communities. One full-time and one half-time Title I
teachers served students in the building. One speech teacher was in the building full time
and another speech teacher was shared with the upper elementary school in the district.
The average number of years of teaching experience for this school was 15.1 years. Just
over 50% of the faculty had earned a master’s degree. There was one female African
American teacher and two male teachers employed at this school. The average annual
salary for teachers in this building was $45,288.
There were eight full-time extra support personnel. One of these extra support
employees worked in the learning center. Other extra support personnel were involved in
the flexible delivery system working primarily in classrooms with special education
students who have individualized education plans (ffiP). The extra support personnel also
helped in the cafeteria during lunch time, supervised students during noon recess, and
supervised students before school.
The school had one male principal who had been with the district for 4 years,
making him one of the most recently employed administrators in the district. His annual
salary was $61,510, slightly below the district average for administrators. A secretary
was employed in the school’s office, and a nurse was available throughout the day. The
school employed 2 full-time and 2 part-time cafeteria workers. A full-time janitor was at
the school during school hours, and 3 part-time janitors worked outside of the school day.
The school is a sprawling light brick one-story building initially constructed in
1964 with two wings and a large gymnasium-cafeteria that included a stage area. An
addition was made in 1972, which added a learning center and eight classrooms. There
are 26 full sized classrooms and 6 smaller rooms currently being used as special
classrooms. The smaller rooms contain classes such as music, special education, and
special reading. The walls in the building are painted cement block walls with asphalt tile
floors in the two original wings and terrazzo tile in all entryways. The north wing, which
is a 1972 addition, has carpeted floors throughout most of the rooms and hallways.
There were four sets of regular exits with additional exits possible through the
gym area, library, and kitchen. A security camera was recently added at the front
entrance. This entrance was the only one unlocked during the day.
The learning center was an open room divided into a library area with a
circulation desk at one end, tables and chairs for student instruction in the middle, and a
computer lab with 25 computers at the other end of the room. All computers in the
learning were networked to a main server that provided Internet service.
Classroom A was a special education room, a converted storage room with no
windows. On one side of the length of the room was a blackboard and on the other side
was a shorter board and a bulletin board. The floor was asphalt tile. A separate heater was
in place at the back of the room. There was an open strip of six double fluorescent lights
running down the middle of the room. Items in the room included a wooden teacher’s
desk, a computer desk, a Power MacG3, a printer, several bookcases, eight student desks
and chairs, and two study carrels. This room was used as a resource room where
individual or small groups of students met with the special education teacher for
individualized help with assignments or for small pullout groups from the main
Classroom B was an average-sized third grade classroom located in the north
wing of the building. Directly across the hallway was the learning center’s circulation
desk, girls’ bathroom, boys’ bathroom, and a water fountain. This area of the building
was a high traffic area because of the use of the bathroom and because of classes entering
and leaving the learning center area.
The classroom had four windows located on the west wall that looked out on the
asphalt parking area where buses loaded. Windows opened by pushing out, and there
were no screens on them. There were shades at each window, which could be pulled to
darken the room for movies, videos, etc. A shelf ran the length of the wall with
The south wall had a chalkboard and large bulletin board with tall wooden
bookcases on either side. The east wall had a coat closet where students could keep coats,
boots, book bags, etc. on hooks inside the closet. Doors to the closet opened into the
classroom. Separate storage compartments were above the closet area. A sink with
running water and a drinking fountain was beside the closet. There was a small counter
space next to the sink with a drawer and cupboard below. The rest of this side of the
room was closed closet or storage area.
The north end of the room was a movable wall that could be opened to the
classroom next door. The four sections of the wall each had a chalkboard on them, which
was used for bulletin board space and for displaying student work.
The room contained 20 desks and chairs for student us. All books and student
materials were kept in the desks. Desks were usually arranged in pairs facing the south
chalkboard. Students could easily move into small groups of three or four to do
assignments and activities. Several other student desks were used for small group work or
project areas. At the back of the room was a larger table used for group work. Five
colorful plastic chairs were used around the table. The teacher’s desk, wooden shelving
units, and filing cabinets were also in the back of the room. The carpeted floor cut down
on the noise level in the classroom and allowed for a more comfortable area for students
to work on the floor when preparing group projects or reading together.
Equipment in the room included a Mac computer and a printer located at a desk
station separate from the teacher’s desk. This computer was used by both teacher and
students and was networked to the Internet. The room had large pull down maps of the
United States and the world mounted over the chalkboard and bulletin board. A movie
screen was also mounted over the chalkboard. An overhead projector was used often. A
small library area containing primarily paperback books was located in one comer of the
room. Many of the books had been categorized into small boxes or bins to indicate
reading levels as defined by a computerized program. A director’s chair was prominently
located as the “reader’s chair” where students share their own writings and the teacher
read aloud. Since there was little solid wall space, doors of all the closets were used for
displaying posters, student work, or word wall charts.
Classroom C was a kindergarten classroom located in the east wing of the original
building. The floor was covered with asphalt tile and there were three rows of fluorescent
lights. As one walked into the room, there was shelving to the left that held toys and
games that the students used. To the right of the entrance was a tall metal cabinet that was
used to store art and craft materials. The back of the cabinet was used as a magnetic wall
to hold pocket charts where the children checked in each day. Another pocket chart that
kept track of students that had jobs each week also hung here.
Upon entering the room, one would find the listening center and the writing
center. There were two older computers for the children’s use. There were various other
centers spaced around the room, such as the kitchen center, book center, and rice center.
Six students could sit at each of the four tables in the middle of the room. One
more table was used for teacher preparation and small group work. During story time the
students sat on an area mg. A teacher’s chair and an easel were used during this time. The
teacher’s desk was located in the northeast comer of the room. In this area was a metal
filing cabinet and plastic shelves for teacher’s books. A newer computer was located on
the east wall. This computer was available for teacher use and at specific times for
student use. The southeast comer had two metal cabinets for storage.
A wall of windows on the north had shelving beneath it. Chalkboards covered
three walls and one built-in cabinet for storage was located on the south wall. The
bathroom was located in the southeast comer of the room with a sink and water fountain
directly outside. There was one built-in cabinet for storage on the south wall.
The walls were covered with print-rich materials. These included number charts,
days of the week charts, months of the year charts, last name cards, and a learning tree
that showed specific alphabet letters students had learned. The student’s coat and book
bag hooks are in the hallway on the outside wall of the room.
Classes were offered to preschool through fourth grade at this school. There were
two half-day preschool classes. There were three half-day early childhood classes. Four
half-day kindergarten classes, four first, second, third, and fourth grade classes were
taught in the building. Classes were also offered in physical education, art, music,
learning center, and computers to grades one through four. Students were offered
physical education and music classes twice a week for 30 minute periods. Art classes met
twice a week for 30 minutes. Learning center and computer classes were taught in
combination and met three times a week for 30 minutes each. Special classes for
kindergarten students included art, music, and learning center. Title I classes and speech
classes were scheduled throughout the day. First through fourth grade used a basal
reading series supplemented by big books, novel sets, and paperback books
recommended by the reading series.
Several programs were offered at this school to encourage good behavior and to
recognize students who exhibit good behavior. Monthly student recognition activities
included scavenger hunts, board game days, kite flying, concerts, and a popcorn and
movie days. These activities were held for students who met the guidelines established by
individual classroom teachers. Each teacher communicated expectations and students
who met or exceeded these expectations were eligible to participate in the activities.
A gifted consultant visited the building periodically to pull out and work with
students who had been identified as gifted. A basic character education program was
offered once a month by the elementary guidance counselor. The guidance counselor also
worked with individual students on a referral basis.
A program was instituted to “Catch Students Being Grood.” Teachers and staff
recognized the exceptionally good actions of students with a certificate, with a picture in
the local newspaper, and with inclusion in a monthly drawing. The guidance counselor
supported efforts to recognize students who displayed appropriate character traits with in-
class instruction and with a weekly drawing. A grant-funded tutorial program was being
offered to students with academic problems. Small groups of students met with a teacher
after school once a week for tutoring in needed academic areas (School Improvement
The targeted school used a flexible delivery system in which problem-solving
teams of educators and parents met to determine a need for educational modifications for
students. These students might have been experiencing academic problems, behavior
problems, or both. Title I reading services were provided for students in first through
fourth grades. Title I was available to students who demonstrated difficulty in reading
and met qualifying criteria.
A very active parent organization has helped to sponsor many activities and
programs. They have provided money to purchase a computerized reading program,
playground equipment, supplementary funds for teacher supplies, assemblies, and shade
trees for the playground.
The local Junior Women’s Club has provided the school with the Reading is
Fundamental (RIF) program. Students were presented with the opportunity to choose a
paperback book three times during the school year.
Parent volunteers were used throughout the school. Parents helped in classrooms,
read with children, did clerical work for teachers, accompanied classes on field trips, and
worked in the library. Members of community groups assisted with monthly student
recognition activities. Within the building there were peer tutoring programs and fourth
grade students have had the opportunity to read to kindergarten and prekindergarten
The school’s mission was to develop the uniqueness of each child: physically,
emotionally, and artistically. Each child was to be provided the opportunity to become a
responsible and productive member of society. To achieve this mission, the school
worked towards a collaborative effort between students, parents, staff, and community.
The Surrounding Community
The community in which the target school was located was a small Midwestern
farming community of approximately 4.250 people. The median age of the population
was 35.7 years. Twenty-one percent of the population were 65 or older. Residents of the
community who were under 1 8 years of age made up 27.3% of the population (U. S.
This community was 96.4% White, 2.8% Hispanic, 0.3% Black, and 0.3% Asian
or Pacific Islander (U.S. Census, 1990). Adults residing in the community who were high
school graduates or higher comprised 70.8% of the population. Seven percent of the
population held a bachelor’s degree, and 4.5% held a graduate degree (Association of
Agriculture and agriculture related businesses play an important role in the
economy of the community. Retail trade and manufacturing are the largest employment
sectors. The unemployment rate was 3.2%, and people who were living in the poverty
range made up 7.5 % of the population. The median household income was $43,436, and
the median housing value was $73,617 (Association of Commerce, 1999).
The community had nine different churches, from Apostolic Christian to Church
of the Nazarene, Church of Christ, and Faith Fellowship. There were Baptist,
Presbyterian, Methodist, Catholic, and Lutheran. Religion was a very important part of
life in this community.
There were 21 different clubs and organizations available and active in the
community. These organizations included the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign
Wars, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, 4-H, Lions Club, Rotary, Home Extension, and Junior
The Boys and Girls Club was a vital part of the community and organized many
youth programs. The club had an activity building, which housed a small gymnasium. It
was used for organized youth programs, for dances, and social events. Basketball,
volleyball, soccer, baseball, and softball programs were organized for preschool through
sixth grade. A school bus dropped children off at the club after school for a variety of
organized activities and homework help. The building had a computer and game room.
The club sponsored community service groups for both junior high and high school
youth. The building was connected to the community pool and had the locker room area
and lifeguard station on the pool side. Two tennis courts were also located on the grounds
around the club building. The Boys and Girls Club had units with similar programs in the
two other towns in the school district.
There were several service groups such as the local parent teacher organization
and a philanthropic foundation that helped to fund various community and school
projects. The Junior Women’s Club sponsored a community funfest in July. Activities,
food booths, programs, and entertainment for all ages were offered in the downtown area.
The community had one nine-hole golf course with a clubhouse. There were three
parks in the community. It also had fairgrounds with a quarter-mile dirt stock car track
and a half-mile limestone track for horse racing. The local American Legion post owned
and operated the fairgrounds and sponsored stock car races on Saturday evenings
throughout the summer. A five-day agricultural fair was held in August at the
fairgrounds. The community had a library that had several computers for use by the
patrons. It was a member of an interlibrary loan system. Next door to the library was a
museum that featured rotating exhibits.
The community had three medical facilities and a 24-hour ambulance service with
emergency medical technicians on duty. The community’s police department employed
seven full-time officers, and there were 30 volunteer firefighters in the fire department
(Association of Commerce, 1999).
School projects and sports related activities were actively supported in the
community. Local businesses, civic organizations, and booster groups all worked
together to spearhead projects and work toward completion of these projects. Examples
of this t)T)e of community support were evidenced in the building of an all-weather track
at the high school. It was built solely by volunteer labor, materials, and private donations.
Volunteerism was an important part of the way of life for members of this community.
The school district in which the problem existed was a unit district having grades
prekindergarten through twelve. It covered a large two county area, and was a
combination of three separate districts that were joined in 1986. There were a total of six
different towns, which became the unit district. Community A was the largest town with
a population of 4,250, Community B and C were smaller with populations of
approximately 1,200 each, and the other three villages were much smaller.
Total student enrollment of the district was 2, 121 students. There were three
prekindergarten through grade buildings in the district, one each in Community A, B, and
C. There was a combined fifth and sixth grade building and a junior high building, built
in 1997, in Community B. The district’s high school was in Community A. The yearly
operating expenditure per pupil for the district was $6,105 (School Report Card, 2000).
The major racial-ethnic group in the district was White non-Hispanic which made
up 95% of the total school enrollment. One percent of the district population was Black
non-Hispanic, 3.5% were Hispanic, and 0.4% were Asian-Pacific Islander (School Report
Low-income students made up 23.3% of the district’s student enrollment. Limited
English proficient students who were eligible for bilingual education made up 0.4% of
the district’s student enrollment (School Report Card, 2000). The district had a 95.3%
attendance rate, and the student mobility rate for the district was 12.4. The chronic
truancy rate was 0.7% for the district (School Report Card, 2000).
The total number of certified teachers for the entire district was 144. Ethnic
percentages for the teachers were 98.6% White, 0.7% Black, and 0.7% Hispanic. There
were 26.3% male teachers and 73.3% female teachers. Of those teachers 63.3% held a
bachelor’s degree, and teachers with a master’s degree or above accounted for 36.7%.
The average years of teaching experience were 15.1 years. The ratio of pupil to teacher in
the elementary school is 17.7 to 1. The ratio of pupil to certified staff was 13 .3 to 1. The
average salary for teachers in the entire district was $40,464 and for administrators it was
$64,478. There were currently 5 building principals and a unit superintendent (School
Report Card, 2000).
The district was a consolidation of three separate school districts, which were
joined in 1986. Community C, one of the smallest of the former districts, had only a
prekindergarten through fourth grade building at this time. Community C had always felt
poorly represented compared to the other two communities because they each had at least
two schools. There were many sports activities in both Community A and B, but none in
Community C. This remained an issue that tended to come up in school board elections
and voting within school board meetings.
Another related issue, which may have affected the entire district, was the
possibility of reorganizing the placement of students at attendance centers. The smallest
of the three main communities tended to have fewer students per classroom and more
students with academic or behavior problems. The establishment of a low-income
housing project may have resulted in more students with problems per classroom. Within
that school were many classrooms with more than half of the students with individualized
education plans (EEP) or student assistance team (SAT) plans. There were often 14 or 15
students in a class. This class size was viewed by the school board to be too small to be
Another issue had been that there was a considerable socioeconomic difference
between Community C and the other two main communities. As a result the students
from Community C have generally been ostracized as they join students in the fifth and
sixth grade upper elementary building. It was not just the fact that these students did not
dress as well, but there was a stigma associated with many students from Community C.
The school board was considering a move toward attendance centers. This move might
reduce some of the negative attitudes toward Community C and the prejudice toward
National Context of the Problem
National concern for reading achievement has been an issue for educators and
policy makers for several decades. As far back as the 1970’ s, states began to establish
competency levels for reading. At this time states also began publicizing school
achievement information, and the National Assessment of Educational Progress was
established to report on student reading achievement. In the report. Becoming A Nation
of Readers, the authors stated that when comparing reading achievement with other
countries, U.S. students ranked at or below the international average. While the authors
of the report cautioned against international comparisons, they saw this international
ranking as a “wake-up call” to educators to improve reading instruction (Anderson,
Heibert, Scott, & Wilkinson, 1985). These same authors were concerned whether current
generations would be literate enough to meet the demands of the technological
information age where increasing levels of literacy would be required.
Many have written that reading is at the center of all learning and that reading
success or failure during the early years has a significant impact on the rest of a student’s
life. President Bush, in the publication No Child Left Behind, contends that there is a
genuine national crisis because of a growing division between those in the nation who
can read and those who do (United States Department of Education, 2001).
The 1991 Gallup survey indicated that Americans were reading less now than
they did in the 1970’s. Anderson, Wilson, & Fielding (1988) found that fifth grade
students read only an average of 14.8 minutes per day. Watkins and Edwards (1992)
reported that the average adult only about 20 minutes a day.
Researchers have also pointed out that those students who were classified as
hesitant readers were not just the poor readers, but included many capable readers as
well. These researchers contended that other diversions competed with the interests of
children and that reading was low on the list of spare time activities (Moser & Morrison,
1998). In fact, one report suggested that children spend nearly 180 minutes watching
television each day (Watkins & Edwards, 1992).
Cunningham and Allington (1999) reported that poverty is one of the most
pervasive factors in determining if a child will be at risk for reading difficulties. They
pointed out that the number of children living in poverty in this country rose from 16% in
the late 1970’s to 25% to date. With this rise in poverty, the researchers would project
that there will be even more children who will be at risk for academic failure unless
classrooms are created where all children learn to read and Avrite. As many as 70 to 80
percent of students in some inner-city schools and 30 percent in some suburban schools
are unable to read and understand grade appropriate material (Honig, 1997). Nearly 70%
of inner city fourth graders are unable to read at a basic level on national reading tests
(United States Department of Education, 2001).
Federal and state funding has been suggested to be used to implement research
based prereading programs in existing preschool and Head Start programs. President
Bush has called for action from the Congress to provide funds to ensure the goal that
every child can read by the third grade. Action by the state board of education also called
for every student to meet the state learning standards for reading as measured by the state
reading assessment, and to perform at or above national averages on national measures of
reading ability. To do this, current research suggested the teaching of foundational skills
during beginning reading instruction. Then students must be taken beyond these
foundation skills to apply these skills to respond to literature, read informational
materials, use reference materials, interpret visual and graphic displays, and evaluate
National Assessment of Educational Progress results suggested that what it means
to be a competent reader has changed dramatically and that educators must raise the level
of daily literacy instruction. Basic proficiency requires thinking that goes beyond
recalling literacy information. Classrooms where children engage in huge amounts of
reading and where instruction focuses on thinking and responding to what has been read
are those where a larger number of readers are attaining the basic proficiency levels
(Cunningham and Alllington, 1999).
One of the biggest problems facing much of America today is the level of literacy
skills. According to the 1993 Survey of Adult Literacy, nearly half the adult population
has such poor skills that they would have difficulty reading a train schedule, writing a
letter of coipplaint, or figuring the best deal on an item. This problem is becoming greater
each year and does not appear to be improving. These illiterate adults are “more likely to
be unemployed, on welfare, or in jail than their fiilly literate peers” (Palmaffy, 1997,
p. 34). Improving the reading skills of students must be a top priority of all teachers
throughout the nation.
Reading achievement by students in the targeted school was considered to be an area that
needed improvement to meet district goals and standards. Teachers, the building principal,
school board, and many parents expressed concern over reading achievement. Pretest measures
administered by the researchers included the AGS Early Screening Profile, The Illinois Snapshot
of Early Literacy (ISEL) pilot test, the Accelerated Reader STAR test, and the Woodcock
Reading Inventory. Researchers administered these pre-test to one targeted kindergarten
classroom of fourteen students and one targeted third grade classroom of nineteen students. Two
researchers work within the same third grade classroom.
Researchers studied the results of the Stanford Achievement Tests in three areas: word
recognition, reading comprehension, and total reading. State achievement test scores were
compared over a four-year period. Reading series theme test scores were reviewed.
Researchers analyzed the use of the Accelerated Reader in the classrooms and the
participation by the students in this program. Interviews were conducted with the building
principal, the remedial reading teacher, the language arts committee chairman, and classroom
The AGS Early Screening Profile and the ISEL were given to students of the targeted
kindergarten classroom during the first two weeks of school. Subtests of the ISEL that were
studied by the researchers included alphabet recognition, story listening, and word recognition.
Results of this test showed one-half of the students scored below 50% correct on alphabet
recognition, 38% answered less than half of the questions correct on the story listening, and
69% of the students answered less than half of the questions correct on word recognition.
The AGS Screening Profile was used to screen for school readiness. Researchers
analyzed primarily the cognitive language profile to get a reliable measure of the targeted
students’ development in this area. Fourteen of the sixteen targeted kindergarten students (88%)
scored within the average range.
The Woodcock Reading Inventory^ was administered to the targeted third grade students
during the first two weeks of school. Data obtained fi-om three subtests were analyzed: word
identification, word comprehension, and passage comprehension. The school board had set a
standard of having 85% of its students reading at grade level. Results of this test indicated that
the goal was not being met in the targeted classroom. Twenty-six percent scored at grade level,
and 48% scored above grade level in word identification. Most of the students appeared to have
adequate decoding skills. Results of the word identification subtest showed that 26.3% of the
targeted third grade students scored below grade level. The word comprehension subtest showed
that 41 .6% of the targeted third grade students scored below grade level; 3 1 .6% scored at grade
level, and 26.3% scored above grade level. This shows that the targeted students may be able to
decode the word, but not necessarily understand it. On the passage comprehension subtest,
47.3% scored below grade level; 31.6% scored at grade level, and 20.5% scored above grade
level. This research indicates that nearly half of the targeted third grade students had difficulty
understanding what they read. A summary of this data is provided in Table 1.
Woodcock Reading Pretest
Percent of third grade students^corina ateach grade level
3.0 - 3.4
3.5 - 3.9
4.0 - 4.4
5.0 - 5.4
5.5 - 5.9
6.0 - 6.4
Researchers examined data obtained from the STAR Reading Test, the beginning
component of the Accelerated Reader program. This test was administered to the targeted third
grade students in order to obtain their correct reading level. As shown in Table 2, 53% were
below grade level when compared to other students nationally.
The test consisted of a series of stories and comprehension questions at increasingly more
difficult levels. The students progressed through these stories and questions until they reached a
level that was considered frustration or too difficult for them. The test was programmed to
determine a range of reading levels appropriate for the individual student. Students were
supposed to read Accelerated Reader books in their range and would then be able to pass
comprehension tests on books in that range.
STAR Reading Pretest - Third Grade Scores
Percent Distribution of Grade Equivalent Scores
Grade Eouivalents % Students
# of Students
3.0 - 3.4
3.5 - 3.9
4.0 - 4.4
4.5 - 4.9
5.0 - 5.4
5.5 - 5.9
The STAR test was administered at the beginning of third grade, so students scoring at
anything below 3.0 were considered below grade level. There were ten students who scored
below grade level out of a class of 19 students in the targeted third grade (52.6%). Four students
fell in the grade level or slightly above range (21%). Five students (26.3%) scored above grade
Results of the Stanford Achievement Tests taken by the targeted third graders were analyzed
in the areas of word recognition, reading comprehension, and total reading. When comparing the
percentile rank scores of the targeted students, seven of the targeted 18 students (38.8%) were
found to have a total reading percentile rank score at or below the 49**' percentile. Eleven of the
targeted third graders (61.1%) scored at or above the SO**" percentile. A summary of the test
results is shown in Table 3.
Stanford Achievement Test Scores - Percentile Rank
Number of Third Graders Scoring at each Percentile Rank
Subtests Wd. Recog Rdg. Comp Total Rdg. Percents
Below 25th %iie 3
25th -49th %ile 5
50th - 74th %ile 5
75th % ile & up 5
22 . 20 %
18 Total 18 Total 18 Total
The state reading test scores were examined to determine a pattern in the district for a
four-year period. As shown in Table 4, the percentage of students in the “does not meet”
category grew considerably in three out of the four years. In 1997-98 there were 16% of the
students in the “does not meet” state standards category from our third grade scores. In the
following year, 20% were in that category, and in 1999-2000, the “does not meet” category
increased to 37%. Last year (2000-2001) still had 24% in the “does not meet category.” In the
last year, there were still only 77% of the students who met or exceeded state standards. During
an interview, the building principal expressed concern over the number of students not meeting
the state standards. He felt the results fell short of the district goal.
State Reading Test Scores
D. N. M. *
* Does Not Meet State Standards
A number of reading theme test scores were reviewed. Reading skills sections of the
theme tests that were used consisted of the reading strategy subtests, the comprehension subtests,
and the word skills subtests. The reading strategies subtests involved short answer prediction
questions. The comprehension section included both short answer and multiple-choice questions,
while the word skills subtest consisted of only multiple-choice questions.
Reading series theme tests are one measure that the district language arts committee uses
to plan for Title 1 eligibility and in planning reading improvement programs. Theme tests are
given throughout the year and scores were averaged to determine a pattern. Of the theme test
scores reviewed, 17% of the students scored in the 92% -100% (A) range, 25% scored in the
83% - 91% (B) range, 50% scored in the 74% - 82% (C) range, and 8% scored below a _C
Report card grades in reading did not show a particular problem. Parents were
interviewed about their views of reading report card grades. Many expressed that a grade of C in
reading would be an area of concern for them. They would be in contact with the teacher to
discuss the reason and would expect the student to improve the grade. Teachers interviewed
rarely gave lower than a C. When students showed signs of dropping below a C average, they
would often be referred for extra help in Title 1 classes or to a student assistance team for extra
classroom support. Yet, the grade equivalent scores on the pretest measures showed below grade
Researchers looked at Accelerated Reader participation during the previous school year.
The program was available on computers in all classrooms. Teachers allowed only marginal time
during the day for sustained silent reading. No teacher allowed more than twenty minutes daily
for students to read books of their choice. Reading AR books was encouraged mainly when
students had finished assignments. Most of the reading was done at home.
Of the targeted third grade students, one took no tests during the year. Another student
read and passed only one AR test all year. Four of the targeted third grade students read and
passed tests on fewer than ten books. Of the targeted third grade students, one-half read and
passed the tests on less than one book per week. Only 22% of the targeted third grade students
read and passed tests on more than 30 books. It appeared that the greatest majority of students,
78%, read less than one book per week. Targeted third grade students read a total of 485
Accelerated Reader books throughout the previous year. Of those books read, 8 1% of the tests
for those books were passed at a score of 70% or better.
The targeted school demonstrated a need to make improved reading achievement a
priority for its students. Teachers, parents, and administration agreed that reading was a skill that
affected all areas of learning and was a necessary life skill.
Richard Allington (1977) asked the question, “If they don’t read much, how they ever
gonna get good?”(p. 57). Allington contended, “. . .to become a proficient reader, one needs the
opportunity to read”(p. 60). In an informal survey he found that while a variety of instructional
techniques and materials were used, students were doing very little reading. Teachers were
letting isolated skills instruction become the primary focus of instruction. The poorest readers
were often the students receiving much skill instruction with the use of flashcards, worksheets,
and other instructional techniques in isolation, while not spending sufficient time actually
Another possible reason for below grade level reading achievement may be that students
have not developed sufficient fluency and automaticity in reading. Biemiller (1978) suggested
that reading rates may be the result of poor readers reading less and are therefore exposed to
fewer instances of the various orthographic structures that make up the English language.
Samuels (1988) stated that one of the main ways to help poor readers become automatic at
decoding and word recognition was to “. . .provide time to practice so the skill becomes
A consensus of the teachers interviewed in the targeted school felt that parents did not
spend adequate time at home practicing reading with their children. Research by Greaney (1980)
found that only 5.4% of leisure time was spent on reading by fifth grade students. He also found
a positive relationship between the amount of time spent reading at home and reading
achievement of elementary students. Anderson, Wilson, and Fielding (1988) reported on a study
of the relationship between how children spend their time out of school and reading
achievement. They found that time spent reading at home was the best predictor of reading gains
from second to fifth grade. Students, therefore, needed to increase the amount of time they spent
practicing reading at home, especially in the form of oral and assisted reading. Parental
involvement helps children learn more effectively (Anderson, 2000).
Reading practice needs to be challenging, but successful. It is important that the level of
books used for reading practice is not too difficult or easy for the reader. To become automatic
with a sufficient vocabulary, the practicing reader needs exposure to less frequent and more
difficult words in meaningful context. Students cannot become proficient readers if they are
reading books much too easy or much too hard for them. Researchers were concerned that
students were choosing books that were not challenging them in exposure to new vocabulary and
concepts. Difficult books were fhistrating them, causing a dislike for reading. They should be
encouraged to read in what Paul (1996) refers to as the zone of proximal development, “. . .the
reading level at which reading practice will promote maximum development.” (p. 10)
Teachers have been reading aloud to students for many reasons including introducing
them to the pleasures of reading and for instructional purposes. Many times the read aloud model
relegates listeners to a passive role and discussions are held after the reading. The researchers
were concerned that students needed to be more engaged with the text so that they could learn
how meaning is constructed and to explore the reading process. Barrentine (1996) felt that stories
that were read interactively encouraged students to learn how stories work, how to monitor
comprehension, and what to think about as the story progresses. Strategies are taught through
demonstration. These demonstrations model for the students the kinds of interactions they should
be having with their own texts as they read.
To increase the reading achievement of students in the targeted classrooms, several issues
needed to be considered. More time during the school day needed to be used to practice reading
and to improve automaticity. Students should be encouraged to practice their reading skills orally
at home. To promote maximum reading development, teachers must guide students toward
reading books that are at an appropriate level. Students need to become more engaged in the
reading process to monitor their comprehension and learn how stories work.
THE SOLUTION STRATEGY
Educators have been arguing, debating, and researching instructional methods for
teaching reading for decades. All throughout educational history, educators have proposed
theories or methods that were to be the answer to all reading problems and would teach all
children to read. The literature was filled with ideas on instructional techniques, strategies, and
programs for teaching reading. One could never exhaust the vast amount of studies related to
reading methods and issues of effective education. Educators did not doubt that good instruction
was absolutely necessary in helping children learn to read.
Many in the field of reading concurred that there was no simple solution. Children come
to school with different personalities, backgrounds, abilities, and learning styles. People
continued to look for the one best way to teach reading without taking into account all of these
differences in our classrooms (Cunningham & Allington, 1999). Hundreds of thousands of
dollars have been spent on research to help find the best approach to teach reading. Those results
were inconclusive in finding a best approach. A study by Bond and Dykstra concluded that a
combination of approaches worked better than any one single approach (as cited in Cunningham
& Allington, 1995). A study by the National Reading Research Center on the practices of regular
and special education teachers considered to be highly effective by their supervisors found that
these teachers, “ . . . reported a great balance in the instruction they offered to students”
(Wharton-McDonald, Rankin, Mistretta, Ettenberger, 1997, p. 519). Some effective teaching
practices were teachers’ modeling of literacy skills, daily practice, and individual participation
by students. Skills prerequisite to reading, such as letter-sound associations, decoding strategies,
phonics, vocabulary, and comprehension strategies were taught both in context and in isolation.
Various types of reading were used such as shared reading, students reading aloud to others,
choral reading, daily silent reading, and reading with parents. The explicitness and extensiveness
of the instruction varied with the ability of the reader. The weaker readers were offered more of
the same instruction as stronger readers. With this in mind and after searching the literature,
several theories began to dominate. These theories were all related to the goal of improving the
reading achievement of at-risk students in regular classrooms.
One of the great debates throughout the history of reading instruction has been the
effectiveness of intensive phonics teaching. Phonics has been identified as an alphabetic
approach. Children learn the letters and the sound-symbol relationship required to form words.
Educators believed instruction in phonics was important because a beginning reader must figure
out how the alphabet works. Research has shown that directly teaching the letter-sound system
speeds up literacy acquisition (Cunningham & Allington, 1999). Many researchers have
recommended phonics as an important part of teaching reading.
Studies done by Chall prior to 1965 indicated that an emphasis on learning the printed
code for spoken language produced better results during beginning reading instruction at least
through third grade (Fulwiler & Groff, 198G). Dykstra also studied the research both before and
after 1965 and concluded that when children received intensive phonics instruction in the early
stages of reading, they developed better word recognition skills and therefore had the skills
necessary to become independent readers (Fulwiler & Groff, 1980).
Evidence indicated considerable time should be given over to the, . explicit and
comprehensive development ofbeginning readers’ phonics skills... ’’(Groff, 1998, p.l39). When
children figure out the letter-sound system, they have the ability to decode. They apply meaning
to signals, which enables them to figure out pronunciations for the words they see in print (Lapp
& Flood, 1997). In fact, some researchers felt that decoding skills were a necessary prerequisite
for comprehension and skilled reading. Research evidence pointed to the fact that skilled readers
were so good at decoding that they did not need to use context to help them in the process
Samuels (1988) theorized that when teaching decoding skills, teachers should work
towards the goal of accuracy in word recognition. Skilled reading also required that accuracy be
followed by an automatic stage. A fluent reader developed both accuracy and automaticity. That
meant the reader was automatic, needing to use little effort or energy to recognize a word. This
left the reader’s mental energy free to comprehend what was being read. One of the first things a
teacher had to do to develop this automaticity was to instruct students in the decoding skills
needed to become fluent readers.
Research done by Stanovich in 1986 found that children who started acquiring decoding
skills slowly, rarely became strong readers as they went through school (as cited in Lapp &
Flood, 1997). Another study by fuel in 1988 found that when students experienced an early
acquisition of decoding skills, it led to wider reading both in and out of school (as cited in Lapp
& Flood, 1997).
Students needed to become automatic in pronouncing and recognizing words. This ability
depended on knowing how to use the alphabetic system to decode words. Research stated that.
“...equipping each child to decode simple words should be a major goal of kindergarten and
early first grade reading instruction” (Honig, 1997, paragraph 10).
After examining the research, Groff (1998) concluded that the more phonics information
children were taught, and the better they learned to apply it to the written word, the better the
beginning reading achievement would be. According to Honig, “...first grade decoding ability
predicts 80 to 90% of reading comprehension in second and third grade and still accounts for
nearly 40% of reading comprehension by ninth grade”(1997, paragraph 10). Honig (1997)
recommended an organized and systematic phonics curriculum to teach students how this
alphabetic system works. He called for curriculum that would include teaching enough of the
letter-sound correspondence so that students would become automatic with a number of words.
They would need to develop proficiency in word attack skills and practice these new skills in
decodable text where about 1 in 20 words needed to be figured out.
Many educators did agree that a student’s acquisition of phonics skills is an essential part
of reading development (Groff, 1998). Samuels (1988, p. 758) reported that, “Everyone seemed
to agree that beginning readers needed to learn decoding skills.” However, great controversy
remained about how and when to teach these skills. Not all educators or researchers agreed with
the intense, sequential, comprehensive phonics training.
Cunningham and Allington (1999) examined the research and found no conclusive
evidence on what sort of phonics lessons should be taught or how long the lessons should last to
develop the needed skills in students. They also found that research did not agree on what order
letters and sounds should be taught or what approaches should be used. Well-planned instruction
based on student needs was more effective than random instruction.
Goodman and Goodman (1979) proposed that learning to read is natural, and students
learn to do it in the same way as they learn to speak and listen. They also believed that reading
instruction needed to create and enhance conditions that would allow the student’s natural
competence to take over. Goodman and Goodman saw both oral and written language as learned
in the same way. “In neither case is the user required by the nature of the task to have a high
level of conscious awareness of the units and system”(1979, p.l39). Goodman and Goodman
also theorized that students build from whole to part. They concluded that, “. . .nonproficient
readers showed problems in getting it all together. They tended to bog down in preoccupation
with letters and words and lose meaning”(1979, p.l48).
Johnson and Louis (1990) theorized that breaking reading down into skills destroys the
meaning of reading because each word in a text obtains meaning from the words around it.
Harste, Woodward, and Burke (1984) have demonstrated in their research that students have all
the strategies necessary to continue their development of language. They believed that invasive
intervention or sequencing a set of skills would not cause reading to occur. There was no order in
which patterns would be attended to, but rather the student would determine the usefulness of
each pattern. Harste (et al., 1984) felt that students needed environments that encouraged them to
use their existing learning strategies. They also theorized that students should first interact with
the complete text. Attention to ideas, sentences, and continuing smaller units would follow.
Constant and repeated demonstrations were at the heart of good instruction.
Lapp and Flood maintained that phonics instruction, “. . . should not occur in isolation
from books”(1997, p .699). Research by Carbo (as cited in Lapp & Flood, 1997) found that
many emergent readers do not have the ability to learn through analytic and abstract experiences.
They would learn better by use of the whole to part experiences gained from reading whole
books together as a class and phonics lessons should follow later.
Whole language has many components and has been around for over 60 years. Daniels,
Zemelman, and Bizar (1999) found whole language was generally composed of reading aloud
daily, using classic children’s literature, structuring independent reading, using interdisciplinary
themes, higher level thinking, teacher-student conferences, collaborative groups, modeling, and
self-assessment. Other names for the methodology include literature-based instruction and
constructivism. Spin-offs from the ideology of whole language include Reading Recovery, story
mapping, webbing, sustained silent reading (SSR), journaling, and perhaps even Accelerated
Reader (Daniels, et al., 1999).
Thompson found that many schools in the late 1930’s opted to use real children’s
literature instead of the commercial basal programs popular at that time (as cited in Daniels,
Zemelman, & Bizar, 1999). The basal programs were generally subskill-oriented, while the
literature-based programs encouraged children to use wide independent reading. Thompson’s
summary of 40 different studies comparing the two types of programs, basal and literature-based,
showed that over half favored the literature-based programs, and 15 showed no significant
difference in achievement. Research findings by Tunnell and Jacobs (1989) showed a pattern of
gains in achievement in the whole language and literature-based programs in the last 20 years.
These gains showed across the board, including students in regular classrooms, special needs
students, low socioeconomic background students, and even those who had English-as-a-second-
A study by Weaver was later published in a book (Weaver, Gillmeister-Krause, &
Ventozogby, 1996). In this study Weaver found that students in whole language programs did as
well as students in phonics and skills-based programs on standardized reading tests, developing
skills in punctuation, grammar, spelling and vocabulary. This was attributed to learning these
things in context, not in isolation.
Bracey (1998) reported that in Sachs and Mergendoller’ s 1997 study, whole language
seemed to work better with the lower level students because they were lacking in the basic
emergent literacy skills such as reading from left to right, print conventions, and expectations
about the nature of reading. This study took place in kindergarten and also seemed to lean toward
lower level readers needing whole language because it was more engaging and interesting to
those who were not really that motivated. Sachs & Mergendoller believed that the more capable
students could benefit from the phonics-oriented classroom because it concentrated on mastery,
practice, and the ability to automatically perform certain specific skills.
Drecktrah and Chiang (1997) noted that Stahl and Miller found that whole language
approaches were more appropriate in kindergarten than in first grade. They also believed that
whole language approaches would be better for word recognition than for comprehension.
Another philosophy that Stahl and Miller espoused was that whole language was not as effective
with disadvantaged students. This seems to be in direct contrast to the study by Sachs and
Mergendoller. A possible explanation might be that the Sachs’ study took place only in
kindergarten, while the Stahl and Miller study also concentrated on initial reading instruction in
Harris & Graham (1993) espoused an integrated approach. Since children come to school
at many different levels of experience, readiness, and ability, no method works with every child.
Many teachers at various grade levels combine skills instruction, phonics, and whole language
into an eclectic approach for reading instruction according to Drecktrah & Chiang (1997).
The family connection of teaching reading has a long history. The earliest findings of
education in the United States showed that teaching reading began in the kitchen. It has even
been shown through paintings of the seventeenth and eighteenth century of storytellers telling
stories and pointing with a stick to text written on a board.
Parental involvement in reading was found to be an important factor in the ability to
teach reading and read fluently. Huey (1968) wrote, “ . . . the secret of it all lies in the parents’
reading aloud to and with their children”(p. 332). These early recognitions about reading to
children were ignored until the 1970’s. This disregard and neglect was caused by the belief that
literacy development did not begin until formal instruction was given in school.
Durkin (1974) summarized the traditional objections about reading before a child enters
school: “. . .Preschool reading will be injurious to a child’s vision; parents are not trained to teach
reading; preschool reading leads to problems of boredom or confusion when school instruction
begins” (p. 138).
Durkin (1966) also did research in the area of literacy development. She did a study to
investigate what children’s experiences before school lead to signs of acquiring literacy. Durkin
concluded that being read to created an interest in reading.
For many years, teachers knew through their classroom experiences and results from
research projects like Durkin’s (1966) that the reading readiness programs were theoretically and
practically inappropriate. It has only been since the late 1970’s that the appropriateness of these
programs has been challenged.
Researchers such as Clay, Goodman, and Harste reaffirmed the discovery process of
emergent literacy in children (as cited in Wan, 2000). The idea has brought greater attention to
the roles parents, teachers, and books play in the development of children’s literature.
The research findings of Cullinan (1989), Donelson and Nilson (1989) and Huck, Helper
and Hickman (1987) showed that children that are surrounded by books and supportive adults
acquired literacy more quickly. Mass (1982) believed that literacy developed gradually in a
natural environment, filled with good books, meaningful conversation and abundant writing
materials. He stated that this happens before a child starts school. Teale (1981) suggested more
naturalistic research should be done to see if there is any correlation between the styles used in
literacy orientation through analysis of how children are read to. This knowledge may help
educators provide reading and writing instruction that builds upon the foundation that a child
brings to school as a result of the students socio-cultural experiences. Cochran-Smith (1984)
supported Teale’ s (1981) statement and said, “. . . Patterns of story reading are cross-nationally
and cross-culturally diverse.” (p. 8)
Today there is still in need for more naturalistic studies to examine cross-cultural
differences of reading aloud to children, especially those from families that speak different
languages. These studies may help schools understand the variations of literacy orientations
children receive at home and school.
Research documents the importance of reading aloud at home and at school.
Louszides’s study pointed out that a background of being read to during infancy has a positive
effect on a child’s choice to read independently in their leisure time (as cited in Wan, 2000).
Becher also thought that being read to improved a child’s receptive and expressive vocabularies,
comprehension skills, sentence length, letter and symbol recognition, basic concept development
and interest in books. He also thought that reading to a child promoted a bond between parent
and child and showed that reading is a valuable activity. Becher thought that reading promoted
positive interactions among family members and made children aware of language patterns,
expanded vocabulary, and served as a source of information from which children build
knowledge about rules that guide the reading process (as cited in Wan, 2000).
Parent and family involvement in education benefits all participants. Anderson, Hiebert,
Scott, & Wilkinson, (1985) and Morrow (1995) documented that family literacy practices foster
a love and desire for reading. Research has shown that parent involvement benefits students of
all ages, parents, teachers and schools.
The benefits of parental involvement for students include a higher achievement in
reading, quality work, and a positive attitude toward school. Other benefits are improve-
ment in student achievement, parental school support, and teacher morale improvement.
Many educators believed another critical factor involved in getting children to grow as
readers was that students needed to spend lots of time reading (Gillet & Temple, 1990).
Becoming a good reader required more than merely being able to perform isolated skills or read
a series of words on a list. Practice was required to apply and transfer isolated skills to the
reading process (Moore, Jones, & Miller, 1980). Allington (1977) reported on an informal survey
taken to determine the number of words that the average student was reading, showed that the
students were doing very little reading. Students read no more than 1 10 words during the lesson
observed. He also theorized that the, “. . .ability to read fluently required the opportunity to
read’XAllington, 1997, p. 58).
Greaney (1980) found after studying 920 fifth graders, the amount of time spent reading
was positively related to reading achievement. Walberg and Tsai (as cited in Gillett & Temple,
1990) studied 2,890 thirteen-year-olds and found that frequency and amount of reading were
related to reading achievement. Anderson, Wilson, & Fielding (1988) found in a study of 155
fifth graders that time spent reading and reading achievement were positively related.
Hoyt (2000) claimed research was very clear about the importance of independent
reading and that teachers needed to provide substantial time for independent reading every day.
A study by Anderson, Wilson, & Fielding (1988) found that time spent reading books was the
best predictor of reading achievement in second through fifth grade students. Taylor, Frye, &
Maruyama (1990) reported that their study of 195 fifth and sixth grade students supported the
theory that time spent reading at school was significantly related to gains in students’ reading
A study by Nagy, Anderson, and Herman found that students who read for at least 20
minutes a day, every day, could add 1000 new words to their vocabulary each year (as cited in
Hoyt, 2000). In data collected by Topping and Paul (1999), student reading ability was strongly
positively related to the amount of in school reading practice.
Ivey (2000, p.42) said that, “. . . the amount of time spent reading separated the successful
readers from the unsuccessful readers.” Students should be given time to read during the most
critical instruction times and across the content areas where it counts the most (Ivey, 2000).
Topping and Paul (1999) proposed that based on research by Leinhardt, if teachers added five
minutes of reading a day, students would make additional gains in grade level equivalents.
Topping and Paul (1999) also reported on a study done in New York State that showed the
biggest difference between high and low performing schools was the large amount of silent
reading done in the high performing schools. Allington (1984) found that extremely good readers
read 150 times more words in a week than the poorest readers.
Sustained silent reading was developed as a component in various school reading
programs, giving students the opportunity to practice reading. Hunt (1970) first popularized the
idea that children should be given time to read during the school day. A fixed amount of time
was set aside for silent reading of materials selected by the students. The time period would
gradually increase as the students became involved and the program continued throughout the
Cunningham and Allington (1999) recommended that second and third graders should
spend at least 20-30 minutes each day reading from materials they have chosen. They further
recommended that reading should be the only activity during this time and that the amount of
time should be consistent and regular. To make sure that students were spending independent
reading time in actual reading, Gambrell suggested that time prior to sustained silent reading be
set aside for selecting reading material (as cited in Moore, Jones, & Miller, 1980). A study by
Kragler and Nolley (1996) found that when students were given the opportunity for self-selection
of independent reading material, 62% chose books at their independent reading level. Allington
(1977) suggested that readers needed the opportunity to be placed in materials they can read
fluently in order to develop fluent and rapid oral reading.
A study by Gaskins (1998) found that when students who were reading two to five years
below grade level were placed in a reading program designed to provide lots of reading time,
they gained two or more years in basal reading levels during the two years they were in the
program. These students were also achieving at or above the mean on standardized achievement
tests. Another study compared a sustained silent reading model to that of a control group where
no organized silent reading program was conducted. The results indicated that an organized
silent reading program made a difference in the reading achievement and attitudes of students
(Manning & Manning, 1984).
Hoyt ( 2000) suggested that emergent readers needed independent reading time to handle
books, make stories from the pictures, and be treated as fully engaged readers. They might enjoy
reading a book together, talking about a book, or even acting out a story that was read to them
earlier ( Routman, 1991).
While time set aside for independent reading practice was shown in many studies to have
a positive influence on reading achievement, there were some weaknesses reported in this
approach. All students were not engaged in reading and spent little time during the reading
period actually reading. This seemed to be especially true in students who were reading books at
the wrong level, students who were unmotivated to read, or those students with learning
disabilities. Methods needed to be developed to insure students were actually practicing reading
text and getting the most from the practice time provided in class. Hoyt (2000) recommended
teaching minilessons on how to choose a book that will keep the reader interested. She also
suggested lessons on what happens during independent reading time and how students can
employ reading strategies to help them become better readers. Truscott (1996) found that
students were more likely to persist in challenging tasks if they know how to use a wide variety
of reading strategies.
Moore, Jones, & Miller (1980) believed that the teacher should be required to read during
the silent independent reading time and to end the time by reacting to what she read. In fact a
study by McCracken and McCracken (as cited in Moore, Jones, & Miller, 1980) suggested that
one of the major causes of failure of sustained silent reading was that the teacher did not provide
a good role model.
Manning and Manning (1984) studied different models of reading practice and found that
students who participated in peer-interaction models appeared to make the most gains in reading
achievement. Slavin and Madden (1989) reviewed research on approaches designed to increase
reading achievement to see what works best and found when students worked in small learning
teams, they mastered the material better. Lee-Daniels and Murray (2000) also adapted the silent
reading model to form pairs of students who were reading at a similar level. Once the students
had read their books independently, they discussed information about what they had read. Moser
and Morrison (1998) also used paired reading as a way to increase the time spent reading in the
classroom and to increase reading achievement. Having the two students read simultaneously or
having one student in the pair read orally while the other listened, helped increase the students’
comprehension rate by 2.7 years. Truscott (1996) also found that modifying sustained silent
reading by including pair reading strongly influenced both motivation and achievement. Dixon-
Krauss (1995) found that students working in a paired reading situation improved in word
recognition and in higher level thought processes involved in reading. The research suggested
that students must discuss and respond to the books read as well as just “Drop Everything And
Read”(D.E.A.R.) (Gillet & Temple, 1990).
Another component of sustained silent reading was to incorporate a time for sharing of
material read. Moser and Morrison (1998) reported that student sharing of favorite books was a
motivation for many students to try new books. It helped in self-selection of interesting,
motivating reading material and expanded the variety of genres and authors read. Truscott
(1996) also encouraged allowing time for the discussion of good books and providing time to
write critiques or recommendations. Students would be able to use this information to choose
appropriate materials. Book talks by teachers to entice students to explore a wider range of
materials and to provide guidance for self-selection, was recommended by Routman (1991).
Many researchers concluded that setting aside time for reading during the school day
must become a priority for students and teachers and be viewed as one of the most worthwhile
activities students can be doing.
Educators across the nation have been noticing a downward trend in students’ reading
skills in the classroom. These students were reading below grade level and had low self esteem
and an extreme lack of motivation. For example, statistics showed the average high school senior
spent the same amount of time reading as the average kindergartener. Educators saw the need to
take charge and to introduce a program that would improve reading skills and interest students in
This program was called Accelerated Reader and was developed in 1993. This program
was designed to combine literary skills and the use of the computer to motivate students to read.
The program adapted to students of different ages ranging from kindergarten to twelfth grade.
The first step in this program, depending on grade level, was the student was read to, or
the student read individually. A teacher usually read to students at lower grade levels. This
allowed the teacher to see what different views the students had about the same text. Students at
higher-grade levels were given the freedom to choose what book to read. The STAR (Student
Testing Assessment Reading) diagnostic test was given at the beginning of the year to determine
each student’s reading level. This allowed them to pick a topic of interest and a book that was in
their comfort zone. This comfort zone has been also called “zone of proximal
development”(Topping & Paul, 1999).
The second step was when the student took a multiple-choice quiz on the computer,
which tested their comprehension of the book. The computer revealed the answers to the
questions and rewarded points instantaneously. This type of reward gave the students detailed
and timely feedback. Each book was assigned a certain amount of points depending on its
difficulty. This allowed the students to have more control over their reading activity and amount
of points earned. Therefore, they were encouraged to improve their reading level in order to
receive more points.
The third step was when the teacher received immediate feedback on the student’s
progress. Teachers could check the student’s results on the computer as soon as they had
completed the quiz. This allowed the teachers to track their reading behavior through an analysis
of their progression. Accelerated Reader enabled the teacher to make an early intervention and
evaluation of the student’s progress.
Overall, researchers and teachers have seen nothing but success from this program.
Studies have shown, including the results from the Patterns of Reading Practice (Paul, 1996),
that Accelerated Reader stimulated increased reading; which in turn led to greater academic
success and improved attendance.
In conclusion. Accelerated Reader is a program that is helping students change their view
about reading. It has been shown that students are reading more (McKnight, 1992; as cited in
Toock, 1998). Accelerated Reader also improves self-esteem, motivation, and helps improve
reading levels. This program not only helps students, but it helps teachers teach by watching
their student’s progress more closely.
Another program that correlated well with Accelerated Reader was a book buddy
program. This has been described as a strategy in which students were paired up to share the
experience of reading. Usually the students were from different grades, such as fifth and first or
kindergarten and third graders. The purpose of this pairing was to enable the older student to
tutor the younger one and along the way to enhance his own reading ability. Normally the book
buddy program consisted of the partners getting together for about 30 minutes once a week.
Usually the older student held the book so the younger student was able to follow along silently
as the “tutor” read the book aloud. Questions were asked and answered by both the tutor and the
tutee (student being tutored), according to Block & Dellamura (2000-2001).
Some of the advantages to this program included good role models for oral reading,
improvement in both comprehension and use of variant decoding strategies by both partners, an
improved self concept for both, and much more of an interest in reading in general by both
partners. One of the most important factors in this program was to match up the correct partners.
This was up to the two teachers to figure out which temperaments would go best together. It was
suggested by Berliner & Casanova to stick to the same gender partners in order for the best
results, according to Chandler & Gibson (1998).
There were several different ways to set up book buddy programs. One method took
place within a single classroom in which higher ability students were paired with lower ability
students. Another possibility was to match an older classroom up with a younger classroom as
already suggested. This was done several ways. Sometimes the older student practiced one
particular book and then read it to several students in the younger class. The advantage was that
enhanced practice probably improved his reading, but there would not be any strong attachment
made between tutor and tutee, as noted by Chandler & Gibson (1998).
The persistent partnerships model matched students by gender and temperament for the
length of the program. This enabled strong bonds to form between the partners and set the stage
for more improvements within each of the partners. It has long been known that one learns more
by teaching than by being taught. This became apparent when one looked at the progress made
by the tutor. However, the tutee probably paid more attention to the tutor than to his teacher
because he was more his own age, was a role model, and probably explained things in his own
‘lingo’ say Block & Dellamura (2000-2001).
There were many benefits from the persistent partnership model according to Block &
Dellamura. Tutors learned to select more appropriate books for their tutees, and they discovered
what different strategies their buddies used and needed. Chandler & Gibson (1998) believed an
essential part of the buddy system included direct instruction on prediction, questioning, and
different decoding strategies. These would be taught to the older students and practiced and
modeled to the younger ones.
Another aspect of the book buddies program, which seemed to be effective according to
Block & Dellamura (2000-2001), was the extension into a writing program. After the students
shared their books, they wrote or drew in journals, which they shared with each other. Other
ideas included reflection forms dictated once a grading period, reading records with 5 to 1 star
ratings, and strategies checklists that gave tutees hints about things to try and also kept a record
of what worked. Partner or buddy reading helped the tutors improve their oral reading, especially
the ability to change pitch, pace, and inflection. They sometimes even learned to use various
voices to depict different characters. Block and Dellamura (2000-2001) believed that this
increased the interest of the tutees in the books being read to them. Another plus for this program
was the improvement in the self-esteem, pride, and positive feelings toward reading felt by the
students being tutored and the tutors. The third group of people to benefit from this program,
beside the tutors and the tutees, were the teachers. The students received one-to-one tutoring for
at least 30 minutes a week from someone that the student looked up to and wanted as a role
model. For teachers to give this much individual attention to each student for every book that
was read would have been almost impossible, according to Block and Dellamura (2000-2001).
There seem to have been advantages for tutors, tutees, and even the teachers who participated in
the buddy reading program.
After having researched whole language and phonetic strategies, the action researchers
agreed that an eclectic approach combining the best of both methods would be the appropriate
choice. Because the action plan involved a kindergarten class and a third grade class, the action
researchers determined the strategies which would work with both classes included buddy
reading between the two classes, silent sustained reading. Accelerated Reader, and a home-to-
school reading program. All three action researchers fully believe in the phonetic approach, but
also feel that it should be concentrated in first and second grades. Since the action researchers are
combining kindergarten and third graders, the researchers believe the chosen strategies are the
best combination for the emergent readers in kindergarten and those who have already achieved
their basic reading skills in third grade. The action researchers will investigate the relationship
between increased reading time and increased reading test scores.
Project Outcomes and Processes
As a result of the use of the Accelerated Reader program in the targeted kindergarten and
third grade classrooms, the students will be able to select reading material in their zone of
proximal development, increase reading practice time and increase reading comprehension.
As a result of the implementation of a Buddy reading program between the targeted
kindergarten and third grade classrooms, students will increase reading practice using both
paired and repeated reading, gain positive reading experiences, and provide models for younger
As a result of a development of a home school reading program, students will increase
reading practice time.
As a result of a sustained silent reading program, students will increase reading practice
time and develop independent reading strategies.
As a result of these described interventions during the period of August 2001 to January
2002, the kindergarten and third grade students from the targeted classes will increase their
reading achievement. This will be measured by the Illinois Snapshot of Early Learning (I.S.E.L)
and the Cognitive Language Profile for kindergarten students. The STAR test and the Woodcock
Reading Mastery Tests-Revised will be used for third grade students.
In order to accomplish the project outcomes, the following processes are necessary.
1 . Develop a buddy reading system pairing third grade students with
2. Develop a home to school reading program.
3. Establish the Accelerated Reader Program in each classroom.
4. Provide adequate blocks of time during the school day for sustained
Project Action Plan
The teacher will:
■ Inform parents by sending home student consent forms with a friendly cover letter
■ Pretest individual kindergarten students with the AGS Early Screening Profile
■ Pretest individual third grade students with the Woodcock Reading Mastery
Revised Form F
■ Pretest individual third grade students on the computer generated STAR reading test
■ Continue pretest for all students
■ Begin pretesting kindergarten on Illinois Snapshot of Early Learning (I.S.E.L.)
■ Begin compiling scores to determine baseline information on student reading levels
■ Introduce Sustained Silent Reading time to all targeted students
■ Introduce D.E. A.R. time to kindergarten students
■ Provide third grade students with daily reading log
■ Finish pretest on kindergarten students using I.S.E.L.
■ Finish compiling baseline scores for reading levels.
■ Introduce Accelerated Reader program to third grade students.
■ Begin to read books in student’s zone of proximal development and take tests.
" Begin reading Accelerated Reader books to kindergarten students.
■ Organize students to take Accelerated Reader tests on book read in class.
■ Introduce buddy reading program to third grade students.
“ Select books to read to kindergarten buddies.
■ Practice reading buddy books individually and with partners. (3"* graders)
■ Read first buddy book to kindergarten buddy. (3"^ graders)
■ Continue SSR daily
■ Continue D.E.A.R. time daily
■ Prepare parent information and recording forms for home-school reading program
■ Continue Accelerated Reader program
■ Continue SSR daily
■ Continue D.E.A R. time daily
■ Choose a new buddy book, practice, and read to kindergarten buddy
■ Introduce home to school reading program
■ Send home letters and recording forms for home to school reading program
■ Establish Accelerated Reader goals
■ Continue Accelerated Reader program
■ Continue SSR daily
■ Continue D.E.A.R. time daily
■ Choose a new buddy book, practice, and read to kindergarten buddy
■ Monitor and encourage home to school reading program
" Plan recognition for students meeting Accelerated Reader goals
■ Continue Week 5 activities
■ Continue Week 6 activities
• Implement positive recognition of students who are reading regularly at home
■ Continue Week 7 activities
■ Continue implementation of existing strategies and introduction of new strategies as
■ Begin individual kindergarten posttest with AGS Early Screening Profile
■ Begin individual third grade posttest with Woodcock Reading Mastery Revised
Form H and STAR reading test
■ Continue individual kindergarten posttest with I.S.E.L.
■ Continue individual third grade posttest
■ Complete all posttesting
■ Compile scores
■ Analyze data
Methods of Assessment
Kindergarten students will be given the AGS Early Screening Profile and the State
Snapshot of Early Learning. The purpose of these tests is tq determine a baseline level of
readiness to read. The same tests will be used as a posttest after the strategies have been used on
the kindergarten students to assess the effectiveness of those tests.
Third graders will be given the STAR reading test from Accelerated Reader and the
Woodcock Reading Mastery Revised (Form G). The purpose of these tests will be to determine a
reading level for each individual third grader. Different forms of the Woodcock and STAR test
will be given as posttests to determine the effectiveness of the various reading strategies.
These particular tests were chosen because they provide the necessary data on reading
and readiness for our action research project, and they were readily available in our district.
Historical Description of the Intervention
The objective of the action research project was to increase the reading
achievement of the targeted kindergarten and third grade students. This was
accomplished through implementation of the Accelerated Reader program (AR), a buddy
reading program, a silent sustained reading program (SSR), and a home-to-school reading
The research team consisted of three persons. One researcher taught a third grade
self-contained classroom; the second researcher was a learning disabilities resource
teacher who supported the language program in the targeted third grade classroom, and
the third researcher taught in a kindergarten classroom within the same targeted school.
All students within the targeted classrooms participated in the interventions.
During the first week of intervention, the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test
Revised G was administered to all third grade students in the targeted classroom. One
researcher took students individually into her resource room to administer the test.
All third grade students took the STAR test to determine their zone of proximal
development during the first week of the action research. The STAR test was a computer
generated multiple-choice test taken individually at the computer. Once all students had
taken the test, students were told their reading range and were instructed to check out
books in that reading range. Students were allowed to choose their own books within
their established reading range. The students began checking out library books with
guidance given by the researchers. Books in the classroom that were on the AR program
were labeled, and the reading level was marked. Books were organized into labeled boxes
so that students could easily determine the reading level of the book they were choosing.
Time for sustained silent reading (SSR) was established. Two 20-minute periods
were allowed daily for students to read silently, check out books, or take AR tests.
Students were taught the SSR rules and were given reading logs to record the book titles
during each reading period. A sample of the reading log used by students can be found in
the Appendix A.
When students had finished reading an Accelerated Reader book, they were
expected to take a computer generated multiple-choice test on the content of the book.
The students’ scores were recorded in the computer program, and students were given
points based on the difficulty of the book and the number of questions answered
correctly. Students were given point goals based on the results of the STAR test and the
amount of time they were given by the classroom teacher for silent reading.
During the first week in kindergarten, the AGS Early Screening Profile was given
as a pretest. This was a screening device that showed readiness for kindergarten. It
included the following subtests: verbal concepts, visual discrimination, logical relations,
and basic school skills. Each of these tests was conducted on a one to one basis (teacher
to student) and was administered verbally.
During the second week in the targeted kindergarten, the AGS testing was
completed and the Illinois Snapshot of Early Learning (pilot test) was begun. It was
administered as a pretest to determine the students’ abilities before the strategies were
initiated. Also during this week, the kindergarten students were introduced to the Drop
Everything And Read (DEAR) program. This strategy was implemented to expose
students to books. Each day a ten-minute time period was set aside for students to look at
or read books.
School rewards and classroom rewards were organized in the third grade during
the second week. A classroom reward system was set up for students who passed an AR
test with an 80% or higher. Stickers were put on individual charts for every AR test
passed. When students passed 10 tests, they were allowed to choose prizes from the
“Book Bag.” When students filled the first chart, the researcher gave out coupons to a
local restaurant, and students were taken there during their lunch period. School rewards
were also announced for all students participating in the AR program throughout the
school. Rewards were given for students who reached 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% of
their point goal. Students who reached 25% of their goal received an ice cream cone
certificate from the principal. When they reached 50% of their goal, students received a
free meal at Subway from the librarian. Students who reached 75% of their goal were
invited to a special evening event, “Read in the Dark.” Those who attained 100% of their
goal were allowed to travel to the Museum of Natural History in Chicago during a school
The following week the ISEL testing continued in the targeted kindergarten
classroom. The Accelerated Reader program was the second strategy introduced to the
kindergarten students. This program began with the kindergarten teacher reading a book
to the students once a week. Each student was asked five questions on a one to one basis
(teacher to student), and the students answered verbally. The objective of this program
was to improve reading comprehension. The kindergarteners continued to work on
D.E.A.R. time daily.
A buddy reading program between the targeted third grade and the targeted
kindergarten was introduced to provide good role models for oral reading, to improve
listening, and comprehension. It was also hoped to enhance the older students’ reading
ability. Each third grader from the targeted third grade classroom was paired with a
kindergarten student from the targeted kindergarten classroom. The researcher brought
books into the classroom for students to choose to read to their reading buddy. Once the
students chose a book to read to their kindergarten buddies, they were given time to
practice reading. They were encouraged to take it home to practice as well. The
researchers spoke to the students about the importance of practicing for fluency and
expression. Discussion was held about the importance of reading the book several times
for adequate practice. The researchers provided demonstrations to show students what a
good read aloud would look like and sound like. The buddy reading program was used
throughout the intervention.
During the third week of the interventions, researchers and students discussed
ways to extend the reading experiences with their kindergarten buddies. Questions to ask
about the story were suggested and discussed. Students were expected to use these
questions when they had finished reading to their kindergarten buddies.
Volunteers from the community began coming into the targeted third grade
classroom during the fourth week of research to read with the more struggling readers
during the SSR times. Volunteers were assigned to students whose reading levels, as
shown on the STAR test, were below grade level. Volunteers also asked questions about
the book or helped the reader review the book before taking the AR test.
As the intervention progressed, the researchers began bringing a variety of books
of different reading levels into the classroom. Book talks were given on these books to
encourage interest. Students also shared books they had read and liked.
To involve parents as partners in reading and increase the amount of time that is
spent reading, the researchers had planned to begin a home-to-school reading program by
the fourth week of the intervention. The researchers found that with all the other
interventions that were being implemented, the home-to-school program would have to
be postponed. The kindergarten “Be a Star Reader” program was started during the sixth
week of the intervention. A note was sent home on Fridays to be returned the following
Friday with parents writing the book’s title and their signature after reading 10-15
minutes to their children each evening. A sample of the “Be a Star Reader” form can be
found in Appendix B. During the seventh week, information was sent home with the
third graders regarding the “Read With Me Club.” Students were asked to read to a parent
for 10 minutes every day, and parents were asked to sign the reading star chart to
document the reading time. Charts were collected at the beginning of the next week, and
the researchers counted the time parents and students read together. A sample of the
reading charts can be found in Appendix C. Rewards and incentives were also set up to
provide excitement and motivation for reading at home. A “Read With Me Club 25” was
established for students who had recorded 25 parent-student reading sessions. Students
would receive a certificate and would be allowed to eat lunch in the room with the
teacher one day a week.
Researchers continued to guide students on activities to do with their kindergarten
buddies when they had finished reading to them. Students made flashcards of letters and
sight words that the kindergarten students were working on. Students encouraged then-
buddies to find words they knew in the books. Buddies drew pictures of their favorite
parts of the story. The kindergarteners read their letter booklets to the third graders.
The SSR time was maintained throughout the intervention. Volunteers continued
to read with students as needed. Students began earning the rewards that had been set up
for them and this provided motivation for other students to attain these same rewards.
The researchers continued to give book talks on books that were brought into the
classroom from the learning center. This activity maintained interest and assisted those
who had trouble choosing books from a wider selection.
During the last two weeks of the intervention, kindergarteners began the AGS
Early Screening Profile, which was used as a posttest and administered individually. The
ISEL was also administered to the kindergarteners individually as a posttest.
During the last week of the intervention, the third graders were given the
Woodcock Reading Mastery Test Revised H as a posttest. This test was administered
individually. The third graders also took the STAR test as a posttest.
Presentation and Analysis of Results
Data was collected at the end of the action research plan for analysis and
comparison with data collected at the beginning of the project. The AGS Early Screening
Profile results for the targeted kindergarten students were evaluated. Sixty-four percent of
the targeted kindergarten students showed an increase in the cognitive language profile
between the pretest and the posttest. Twenty-nine percent of the kindergarteners showed
a decrease between the pretest and the posttest. Data may be reviewed in Table 5.
AG^Early Screening Profile
Percentile Rank of Targetted Kindergarten
The ISEL scores for the targeted kindergarten students were compared and
analyzed for change. In each of the three subtests, there were meaningful gains noted.
The letter recognition subtest went from 50% of the students scoring 50% or higher in the
pretest to 86% of the students scoring 50% or higher in the posttest. Five of the fourteen
students (36%) gained an average of 40 percentage points on the letter recognition
subtest. The story listening subtest improved from 64% of the students scoring above
50% in the pretest to 79% of the students scoring 50% or higher in the posttest. Scores of
two students improved by 43 percentage points and 38 percentage points. The third
subtest, word recognition, changed from 36% of the students scoring 50% or more in the
pretest to 86% of the students scoring 50% or more in the posttest. Two students made a
gain of 89 percentage points from pretest to posttest. Comparison of pretest and posttest
data is shown in Table 6.
ISEL Pretest and Posttest Results
Percentage of Students Scoring 50% or More
Alphabet Recog. Story Listening Word Recog
Woodcock Reading Mastery Test results for the targeted third grade students were
analyzed and compared for change. One student tested prior to intervention was not
posttested because that student had moved from the targeted school district. Results from
the pretest showed that 26.3% of students were at the 2.S-2.9 grade equivalent range on
the word identification pretest, while only 5.6% of students were at that range on the
posttest. The percentage of students in the 3.0 to 3.4 grade equivalent range went from
26.3% on the pretest to 16.7% on the posttest. Students who scored at the 3.5 to 3.9 grade
equivalent range increased from 10.5% to 22 %. No student scored in the 5.0 to 5.4 grade
equivalent range on the pretest, but 16.7% of the students were at this level on the
posttest. Word identification data is shown in Figure 1 .
2.0-2.4 2^2^ 3.0-3.4 3^3^ 4.(Mv4 4^^ 5.0-5v4
H Pretest B Posttest
— — I ^ — I 1 1
5^5.9 6.0^,4 6^.9 7.0 &
Figure 1. Comparison of pretest and posttest results of the word identification subtest
from the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test.
Data from the word comprehension subtest, showed 41.6% of the targeted
students were between the 1.5 and 2.9 grade equivalent range on the pretest. Posttest
results showed only 1 1% of the students in that range. The percentage of students who
began the intervention in the 3.5 to 3.9 grade equivalent range went from 15.8% to 33%.
Before the interventions, 10% of the targeted class had scored above the 3.5 to 3.9 range.
Posttest results showed 27.9% of the students were at this level. This data is shown in
H Pretest @ Posttest
1 *™*-r 1 1 ,
1^1 2 . 0 - 2.4 2 ^ 2 ^ 3 . 0 - 3.4 3 ^ 3 ^ 4.0-4A 4JSAJ9 S.0-SA SS-SS 6^.4 6 ^^ 7.0 &
Figure 2. Comparison of pretest and posttest results of the word comprehension subtest
from the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test.
The third part of the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test that was analyzed was the
passage comprehension subtest. Twenty-six percent of the targeted students scored at the
2.0 to 2.4 grade equivalent range on the pretest, nearly a year below grade level. No
students scored at this level on the posttest. Pretest data showed 21 % of the class just
slightly below grade level, at the 2.5 to 2.9 range. Following interventions, 5.6% of the
class was in this range. In the 3.0 to 3.4 grade equivalent range, which would have
indicated students reading at grade level or slightly above, the percentage of students
moved from 3 1.6% to 50% from pretest to posttest. At the time of the posttest, 44.5% of
the class was above grade level as compared to 20.5% at the time of the pretest on
passage comprehension. This data can be found in Figure 3.
Figure 3. Comparison of pretest and posttest results of the passage comprehension
subtest from the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test
The STAR Reading test data was also analyzed and compared to pretest data. Of
the students pretested on the STAR, one moved from the district during the action
research. Grade placement at the time of the pretest was 3.0, and the grade placement at
the time of the posttest was 3.4. Students scored an average grade equivalent of 2.7 on the
pretest. The average grade equivalent score for the posttest was 3.8. This was a 1 . 1 grade
equivalent change during the four-month intervention period. Data showed 53% of the
targeted students were reading below grade level as indicated by the STAR reading test
pretest. Posttest data revealed that 16.6% of the students were now in this level. In the
pretest analysis, 26% were above grade level. The posttest indicated that 55.5% were now
reading above grade level. Test information is shown in Table 7.
Star Reading Pretest and Posttest - Third Grade Scores
Percent Distri bution of G rade Equivalent Scores
Grade Equivalents % Students % Students
1 . 5 - 1.9
2 . 0 - 2.4
5 . 60 %
2 . 5 - 2.9
3.0 - 3.4
27 . 80 %
3.5 - 3.9
16 . 70 %
4 . 0 - 4.4
4 . 5 - 4.9
5 . 60 %
5.0 - 5.4
5 . 60 %
5.5 - 5.9
5 . 60 %
6 . 0 - 6.4
One student went from a grade equivalent of 1.9 to 2.8. While still below grade
level, this student showed a growth equal to 9 months. Another student moved from a
grade equivalent of 1.9 to 3.1, which was nearly grade level. One student who had no
record of AR tests during the previous year had taken and passed 25 tests during the
action research. The average score was 87%. Another student who had only taken 1 AR
test the past year had taken and passed 2 1 tests by the end of the intervention, with an
average of 85.5% correct. The average level of book this student was reading during the
intervention was 3.4. No student had read and passed fewer than 20 books during the
project. The total number of books read and passed by students during the intervention
was 736, as compared to 485 during the whole previous year, a 51.75% increase.
School-to-home reading data was analyzed. One student was not allowed to
participate, however he did say that he read every night for 20 minutes as part of his
homework. One student who recorded 100 days of reading at home made grade
equivalent gains of 1.9 to 3. 1. That student also read and passed 27 AR books during this
time. Another student who recorded 75 days of reading at home made grade equivalent
gains of 1.8 to 4.2. That student also read and passed 43 AR books during the action
research. All but one student recorded at least 25 days of reading at home.
The buddy reading program was designed to promote role modeling, increase
practice, and improve comprehension and fluency. Reflections written by students
documented the students’ perception of the program. Several students wrote, “I learned to
use expression because they listen better.” One student felt that she became better at
“reading out’ because she used to mumble when she read. Students wrote that they liked
it when their buddy listened to them read. Many students commented on the stories and
how interesting they were, not just to their buddy, but also to themselves. One participant
wrote, “The stories are neat because I have never read those books.” Third grade students
found it interesting to see what books their buddies liked. Finally, one student wrote, “I
feel like a teacher! I’m thinking about being a teacher.”
Conclusions and Recommendations
Increasing the reading achievement of the targeted kindergarten and third grade
students was the objective of the action research. Results of the Woodcock Reading
Mastery Test for the targeted third grade students indicated that students were achieving
at a higher level than when the action research began. Grade equivalent levels as
evidenced by the STAR test showed growth for many students. Students feel good about
reading to their younger buddies, confident in their ability, and look forward to that time
each week. Students spend considerably more time reading self-selected books during the
school day, and consequently the total number of books read by these students is greater
than had been read in the previous year. Some students increased the amount of time they
spent reading outside of the classroom through the home to school program. These results
indicated that the objective was accomplished.
The results of the AGS Early Screening Profile showed that there were gains and
losses in the cognitive language profile. Since the purpose of the AGS is to screen to
determine readiness for kindergarten, the researchers felt that this test was not an
appropriate measure to be used as a pretest and posttest.
The researchers feel that the increased use of the Accelerated Reader program and
the greater use of classroom time for the practice of reading self-selected material were
the two interventions that contributed most to the increased achievement of the targeted
third students. Since these students were, at least, somewhat familiar with the AR
program, the students were quite interested in participating in the program. Using the
computer to take quizzes proved to be very motivating for most students. Meeting goals
and earning rewards were also incentives for students to continue reading. The
researchers suggest that a motivational reward system be established along with the use
of the AR program.
The use of the AR program at the kindergarten level is not easy to implement
since the stpries must be read aloud to the students, and then questions must be read
aloud to each student. The researchers would recommend that this program not be
attempted without an aide or parent helper.
The researchers took care to build the time allowed for SSR gradually. This eased
the students into the longer sessions they were expected to use for reading. The
researchers recommend a gradual growth to the 40 minutes provided daily and to further
break that time into two shorter sessions of at least 15 to 20 minutes each. The
researchers observed a definite growth in the amount of time students could be actively
engaged in reading throughout the action research. Giving the students 25 minutes or
more to read during SSR is too long. The students looked forward to SSR time each day
and asked for it if some other activity interrupted the usual time.
Students were given extra help choosing books. Even though students were
given a reading range and were only allowed to choose books in this range, they were
often overwhelmed by the choices before them. They would choose a book only to look
at it briefly, say they didn’t like it, and go searching for another. To improve then-
selection skills, the researchers gave the students having the most trouble a set of five to
six books to choose from. This strategy helped to reduce the amount of indecision and the
exchange of reading material. The researchers recommend a similar approach to the
selection of reading material for those students who could not make appropriate choices
on their own. Many students, particularly the lower ability readers, were interested in
picture books that could be finished during one session. As the action research
progressed, so did the length of the books that were read. Several students who only read
picture books at the beginning of the action research were reading short chapter books
appropriate for their grade level by the end of the project. However, students were never
discouraged from reading a picture book in their reading range.
Researchers often brought in books from the learning center to supplement the
classroom library. Students’ interest in the books was heightened when the researchers
talked about the books. Other students were given the opportunity to tell about good
books they had read. The researchers feel that allowing time for the sharing and
promoting of good books helps to keep the students’ interest level high.
It appeared at the introduction of the sustained silent reading program that there
would be several students, especially students who were reading below grade level, who
would not be engaged in actual reading. The researchers recommend that to maximize
reading practice during SSR, a volunteer program be established within the classroom.
The researchers had at least one, and sometimes two volunteers, reading with the students
with the lowest reading levels during each SSR session. This helped to insure that the
reader was on task and not simply looking at pictures and flipping through pages. The
volunteers were to assist the students in improving their oral reading accuracy, fluency,
and comprehension. Volunteers were encouraged to pronounce unknown words, discuss
vocabulary, and ask questions as they listened to the student read. Students enjoyed
reading with an adult volunteer and often asked to read with someone. The researchers
recommend that this type of support to lower ability readers be given during some of the
SSR time to get the most benefit for those students. Providing time during the school day
to practice reading is a productive use of time. When provisions are made to keep the
reluctant reader engaged in the process, all readers can benefit from SSR.
The home-to-school program did not work as well as the researchers would have
liked. The students who needed the most practice were not motivated to read with
someone at home. The researchers tried to make the record keeping for parents as simple
as possible, and yet the response was low. The importance and value of reading with a
parent at home was discussed during parent teacher conferences, and parents agreed with
the importance of this practice. Yet in the two weeks following conferences, the number
of responses went down. This lack of parental support was disappointing. While the
researchers feel a home reading program is necessary to make the most improvement in
reading achievement, it is difficult to implement and maintain. The researchers feel that
there are too many variables beyond their control to make this intervention successful.
The researchers feel that the buddy reading program was successful in motivating
third grade readers to develop fluency and expression. Research has shown that increased
fluency helps comprehension. Posttest scores show an increase in comprehension in the
third grade students. Third grade students who participated were excited to be role
models for the kindergarteners. The program helped to build self-esteem, especially in the
less able readers. The researchers noticed the impact on third graders’ attitudes toward
reading. The researchers recommend that students keep the same buddy each session.
This helps build strong relationships between the buddies. Friendships form on both
sides. Third grade students helped their buddies with sight words, alphabet recognition,
and story elements. The researchers would have liked to incorporate more reading
activities for the buddies to do together, but the time constraints prohibited more
interaction between the kindergarten and third grade students. Several parents and
teachers commented positively on the program.
The researchers feel that the interventions of the Accelerated Reader program
coupled with the extended silent sustained reading time and the buddy reading program
have meaningfully impacted both the kindergarten and third grade students. The entire
school has been implementing the Accelerated Reader program and extended SSR. It has
been obvious to the researchers that these programs have increased the reading
throughout the school. Even the special education students are finding success in the
Accelerated Reader program. Many students are ahead of the goals set by the AR
As teachers who believe that reading is the most important thing we teach, the
researchers feel that it can often be an unbreakable circle for those who do not succeed
initially. They do not read well, so they do not practice, so they do not read well. It is up
to the school to break that vicious cycle, and the interventions that were used in this
research project appear to have been effective.
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